Beyond liberal civil society : Confucian familism and relational strangership

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-498
Journal / PublicationPhilosophy East and West
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


This essay argues that if Confucian familism, which has been blamed as the single greatest obstacle to achieving a civil society, is creatively repossessed, the potential looks very promising for constructing a Confucian civil society that is qualitatively different from a liberal civil society predicated on moral individualism, and for underpinning its unique mode of civility ("sociability") and citizenship ("strangership"). This essay first shows that the intrinsic value of the Confucian family consists in "filial and fraternal responsibility" (xiaodi), then contends that a Confucian self-cultivation (xiushen) that involves a double transformation of individuality and relationality (due to the very nature of the Confucian self being a relational self) engenders a responsible moral agent that is at once filial and civil. It concludes by proposing "relational strangership" as the backbone of a Confucian civil society. © 2010 by University of Hawai'i Press.